Germany, EU dismiss US attempts to get Europe out of Iran nuclear deal
Germany and the European Union rejected an appeal by US Vice President Mike Pence for Europeans to withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal and isolate Tehran.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas defended the 2015 agreement under which Iran drastically scaled back its nuclear programme in return for sanctions relief.
"Together with the Brits, French and the entire EU we have found ways to keep Iran in the nuclear agreement until today," Maas told the Munich Security Conference on Friday, according to an AFP article.
The EU's diplomatic chief, Federica Mogherini, said the bloc was determined to preserve the "full implementation" of the deal, which she described as vital to European security.
A day earlier, Pence accused Tehran of planning a "new Holocaust" with its opposition to Israel and its regional ambitions in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen.
After visiting the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, Pence said the Nazi death camp had made him more determined to confront Tehran, saying it was "breathing out murderous threats, with the same vile anti-Semitic hatred that animated the Nazis in Europe".
The exchange between the top US official and European leaders comes amid heightened tensions between the traditional allies over President Donald Trump's insistence on putting pressure on Tehran.
European countries have resoundingly rejected Washington's efforts to get them to withdraw from the deal.
That pressure ramped up after Trump decided to leave the multilateral accord in May.
On Friday, Maas said "our goal remains an Iran without nuclear weapons, precisely because we see clearly how Iran is destabilising the region".
Without this agreement, "the region will not be safer and would actually be one step closer to an open confrontation", he added.
'A matter of security'
Speaking at the same conference, Mogherini said the deal must be preserved, insisting that for Europe "it's a matter of security".
"So you can count on the fact the European Union and its member states will continue to serve the interests of security and non-proliferation ... preserving the full implementation" of the deal, Mogherini said.
At a conference on the Middle East in Warsaw on Thursday, Pence denounced the retention of the nuclear agreement by the Europeans.
He also criticised a recent initiative of France, Germany and Britain to allow European companies to continue operating in Iran despite US sanctions.
The Trump administration reimposed economic sanctions on Tehran last fall, including on the country's critical oil sector, in line with its withdrawal from the nuclear deal.